There's a running joke in Batavia that you can't gossip about any local resident around Bob and Sue Peterson because there's a good chance they are either related to them or are friends with them.
That's because anyone who has done just about any sort of volunteering, or brought any kind of development project, or raised kids in the local school system has crossed paths with the Petersons at some point. For that lifetime of involvement, the couple will be named the 2011 Batavia Citizens of the Year at an upcoming banquet.
Bob Peterson is president of the Batavia Historical Society, a member and past commander of the Batavia American Legion, a member of the Hansen-Furnas Foundation, a former school board member and president, a former volunteer firefighter, and he owned and operated the Batavia Foundry.
His wife, Sue, has been no less busy. She is the chairwoman of the Batavia Plan Commission, board president of the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, president of the women's group at the Batavia United Methodist Church, member of the Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners, volunteer at Batavia MainStreet events and a past professor of art history at Elgin Community College.
Combined, they have nine generations of family roots in Batavia, and have no intention of leaving.
"I can't think of a better place to live," Sue Peterson said. "It has everything that I think people think about in terms of a hometown. It's a wonderful place to raise children. It has great schools and Midwestern values. Batavia has had really good leaders down through all the years. It's a wholesome community and a refreshing place to live."
How does a couple who already have eight grandchildren find the time and energy for so many volunteer activities? Sue Peterson said it comes from a deep love of meeting new people and making new friends while also being involved with activities in which the couple are truly interested.
For example, Bob Peterson became involved with the school board during the years when their three children attended the schools. Having been an art history professor, both the architecture involved in being a member of the plan commission and the creativity Sue Peterson sees at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center keep her inspired.
"The desire to be involved is always there," she said. "And because we've stayed in Batavia for all our lives, the opportunities are always available. It's always been a good feeling to be involved. We just felt why not give something back. And now we have so many friends because of it."
The Batavia Chamber of Commerce will honor the Petersons at its annual awards dinner on Jan. 28. Executive Director Roger Breisch said the couple was an obvious choice.
"Batavia would be far more desolate had Bob and Sue not nurtured its growth with such love and devotion," he said.
For details on attending the award dinner, call the chamber of commerce at (630) 879-7134 or visit www.bataviachamber.org.